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A Hike to Lookout Point at Villa Montalvo

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The Trail Companion

Late Winter 1999

A Hike to Lookout Point at Villa Montalvo

     by Bob Kelly

One of the closest hikes into the hills west of Santa Clara Valley is Villa Montalvo Arboretum and County Park. The Park is outside Saratoga off highway 9 on Montalvo Rd. The entrance is easily recognized by the flanking stone pillars and sign for Montalvo Performing Arts Center. Take Montalvo Rd. 7/10 of a mile up to the one way entrance road, posted Villa Montalvo Arboretum. Another 1/10 of a mile is Parking lot 1 and the trailhead for the Lookout Point loop hike.
      The loop is a total of about 1 1/2 miles. Just above the lot is a park information board with a trail map and the trailhead for the Creek and North Orchard trails. Take the Creek trail up along Wildcat Creek. The trail follows Wildcat creek a short distance, to a bridge across the creek. Continue several hundred feet past the next bridge and on the hill to the left is the back of the artists' residence for the Montalvo visiting artist program.
      Shortly, we pass another bridge and link to the Orchard Trail, with the trail visible on the other side of the creek. At the next junction, our trail turns left with the creek trail continuing upstream to still another Orchard trail link. Now we are on the Redwood trail as it switchbacks steeply up to a level area next to a water tank and the junction of the Nature and Wildcat trails. The distance traveled is under 1/10 of a mile at this point. The Nature trail is an old service road, one direction is next to the water tank and goes directly down to the Villa. A section of the Wildcat trail also goes left here, following the Nature Trail to the right and up.
      The Nature trail switches back over a bridge up a tributary to Wildcat Creek. Before the second bridge, bear left as the trail splits for another link to the Orchard trail. While climbing the Nature trail, you enjoy some good views of Santa Clara Valley.
      It's only a 1/2 mile to the junction of the Lookout trail. The forest here is a nice mix of trees native to the Santa Cruz mountains, such as Tan Oak (not actually an oak), Douglas Fir, Bay and Coast Live Oak. There are also some examples of California Nutmeg, I noticed one large individual down the hill growing next to and through an Oak. The Nutmeg resembles the Redwood but it's needles are stiffer and more prickly than those of the Redwood. Continue climbing through a nice grove of second growth Redwood with more views of the valley and Mount Hamilton beyond.
      The trail splits again with the Lookout trail to the right, this last piece climbs steeply for a short distance, emerging suddenly into the open at the end of the trail, marked with a bench. The exposed hillside gives a sense of the temperature change between the area under the trees and open terrain. A great view of the Valley spreads below; north, from San Francisco Bay, south to Almaden Valley and east to Mt Hamilton and the Diablo Range. This is a good spot for a break or lunch.
      On returning, there are a number of points that drop down to the Villa. As previously mentioned, there are a several links over to the Orchard Trail which returns to parking lot 1. I took the Nature trail at the first junction down from the top. In 1/2 mile it drops down behind the Villa, emerging at the amphitheater. I walked down through the Arboretum along the right side of the lawn. The Arboretum has many fine examples of mature non-native plants well suited to our climate.
      The trail to parking lot 1 can be picked up on the left of the entrance road about 1/3 of the way down the lawn area. A couple of hundred feet down is Wildcat Creek, bear right and come down to Montalvo Rd. to cross the bridge to parking lot 1.

Map of Montalvo--click for full-sized image
Please click for a full-sized image. Note: this map is also available as a separate PDF file, suitable for printing.

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